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Ending Wheeling Central's dominance?
June 5, 2008 - Jody Murphy
The decision as to split W.Va high schools sports into four classifications will once again come to a head.
The idea - which has been brought up, debated and shot down in various forms several times ä is as bad now as it was a few years ago. Sports writers from Martinsburg to Matewan ä except Chuck Landon - have decried the notion. I'll not rehash any of the arguments here.
While private - mostly Catholic schools - are the major part of the Class A public schools' problem this is really more a case of urban v. rural schools. However, there is really one school ruining the curve for the rest: Wheeling Central Catholic.
The Maroon Knights are the gold standard for Class A athletics this century. Since 1999 Knights' teams have won 32 state titles in eight sports, including cheerleading. The Knights have 11 runners up titles in that same span. Disclaimer: Cheerleading is not really a sport, but it is considered a championship by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
Wheeling has been particular dominant as of late. This school year alone the Knights have won state titles in football, golf, boys and girls basketball and baseball. Had it not been for a special Man softball team the Knights would have won their third straight state softball title. Thanks to the Hillbillies, WCC had to settle for second.
Wheeling has been especially dominant in: football, winning four straight titles and six of the last eight championships; boys basketball,winning five titles since 2002; and golf, finishing first or second in six of the last eight state tournaments.
Wheelingás dominance in football and basketball has been the big sore spot for schools and its fans. Its success is the main reason behind renewed calls to water down the stateás classification system. But Wheeling isn't alone in the problem.
Private schools - primarily either Wheeling Central or Charleston Catholic - have won nine of the last 10 Class A boys basketball championships.
There hasn't been a public school involved in the Class A state championship game since Tucker County lost to (guess who!) Wheeling Central in overtime in 2004.
You have to go back to 2001 to find the last time two public schools (Williamson and Oceana) played for the state title.
In girls basketball only two public school (Burch, 1990 and Williamstown, 2003) have won the Class A state title since 1990. In that span (1990-2008), 11 of the championship games have involved two private schools.
In football, Wheeling Central, the largest of the state's private school, has been involved in all but one of the state championship finals since 2000. Since 2000, in those three sports' championship games (a combined span of 26 games involving 52 teams) only 15 teams have come from public schools.
Of those 15, only three - Moorefield (football), Williamstown (girls basketball) and Williamson (boys basketball) - have won a state title. Of those 52 teams appearing in 26 games Wheeling Central has been involved in a whooping 17 games!
Since 1999, three private schools (Wheeling Central, Parkersburg Catholic and Charleston Catholic) have won 20 state titles in boys and girls basketball and football.
That's a sizable percentage when you consider the state's Class A classification has 51 schools, according to the SSAC. Of those 51 schools, 12 are private institutions. Wheeling Central (294), Charleston Catholic (199), Bishop Donahue (106) and Weirton Madonna (113) are the only schools (9-12) with enrollment of more than 100 students, according to the SSAC Web site.
It should be noted Wheeling is 10th largest school in Class A in enrollment size.
Parkersburg Catholic has 95 students. Huntington St. Joe's has 99 kids. Trinity and Notre Dame are both in the low 80s in enrollment.
Eight of the 12 smallest schools in West Virginia are private.
While I can't offer a fair, and equal solution to the problem, I can offer an idea - one I have served up before.
If I were an AD, I would propose an 80 percent rule to qualify for the state playoffs.
My proposal: All West Virginia schools must play at least 80 percent of their games against same size class, in-state opponents to qualify for the playoffs.
It's that simple.
If you look at Wheeling's schedule it plays very few in-state teams, and seldom ever any Class A teams during the regular season.
Wheeling Central's 2007-08 girls basketball team, which finished 19-4 in the regular season, played only nine West Virginia teams, three of which were Class A schools.
The Maroon Knights' boys basketball team, also played only nine West Virginia teams, three of which were Class A.
Wheeling's 2008 football schedule includes no in-state schools, except Linsly, which isn't a member of the WVSSAC. In 2007 and 2006, the Knights played four in-state schools, none of which were Class A. In 2005, Wheeling played two in-state schools, both Class AA.
A lot of schools won't play Wheeling for a variety of reasons - mainly 'cause they'll be trounced!
Now the onus is one the Knights to find some Class A W.Va schools who will play them. And the public school athletic directors will be on the hook as to whether to not to schedule them. If public schools like Meadow Bridge want get rid of the dominant private schools this is a way to do it.
The ADs can cheapen the system themselves by refusing to schedule the private schools.
It's not perfect and it's not exactly fair, but it is a workable solution. When the four system classification proposal is shot down again I think this is one of the few options left.
Of course, this is just the humble opinion of one lone former sports writer who is afraid of carnys and nuns with boney fingers.
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